Until being founded by Peter the Great in 1703, St. Petersburg was mostly a desolate, swampy wasteland. In short order, though, it rose to major prominence and importance in Russia, and at one point in time was even called the “Venice of the North.” Russia’s second-largest city is a multifaceted – and fascinating – place to experience as a port of call, and offers a smorgasbord of interesting things for visitors to enjoy. From the world renowned Winter Palace to canal boat tours to a seemingly limitless number of beautiful and historic cathedrals, monasteries and museums, St. Petersburg is sure to enthrall you with its unique culture and one of a kind atmosphere.
Sightseeing & Things To Do
Since your chances of ever stopping in this part of the world are most likely slim, it’s a really good idea to venture off of your ship and take a look around St. Petersburg. The city has an ambiance and vibe that is all its own; simply walking its streets and seeing all of the Russian language signs is enough to make a visit well worth it. Between a canal boat tour and a stop at the Hermitage Museum, you’ll have an unforgettable time in this compelling Russian city.
Although St. Petersburg doesn’t offer the sorts of “fun in the sun” attractions that many cruise itineraries are so well known for, it more than makes up for that with its compelling mix of cultural and historic attractions. Consider these choices if your ship stops in St. Peterburg:
The Hermitage/Winter Palace
Next to the Louvre, the Hermitage Museum is the largest art museum in the world. Spread out over four separate buildings – including the Winter Palace that was built by Peter the Great’s daughter, Elizabeth – the Hermitage could easily fill up an entire day. Plan ahead and decide what you want to see; otherwise, you’ll never have enough time!
St. Isaac’s Cathedral
Built in 1818, St. Isaac’s Cathedral is the largest and most impressive in St. Petersburg. If you visit, be sure to go up to the observation deck; with its splendid panoramic views of the city, it is well worth the additional fee.
Peter and Paul Fortress
As the burial place for all of Russia’s Romanov Czars – and because it is the oldest, most original part of St. Petersburg – the Peter and Paul Fortress is a definite must-see. Much of it was built back in 1703, and it is a really great way to getter a better feel and appreciation for the history and culture of Russia and St. Petersburg.
Take A Canal Boat Tour
If your ship is stopping in St. Petersburg during the warm summer months, consider taking a canal boat tour. These tours usually take passengers down the Moika and Neva rivers, affording great views of the Peter and Paul Fortress and other key St. Petersburg sights.
There are a couple of really great places to shop while visiting St. Petersburg. You could try checking out its oldest shopping district, which is called Gostiny Dvor. You can find just about anything imaginable there, from the most cutting edge electronic gadgetry to bottles of high quality vodka. If you’d like to see where the Russian elite spend their money, head over to the Passazh.
Best Souvenir To Bring Back To the Cruise Ship
Nesting dolls – those intriguing dolls that open up to another doll, and then another, with increasingly smaller sizes – are definitely the number one souvenir to bring home from St. Petersburg. You can find them all over the city.
Eating – Sample the Local Cuisine
If you come to St. Petersburg and don’t try out some of the locally famous blini – or crepes - then you’re really missing out. These crepes are usually served with caviar, berries, mushrooms, caramel and many other mouth-watering things. When enjoyed with a steaming cup of tea, they can be just the thing you need – especially on a cold day. You can find them all over the city, from high end restaurants to simple food stands out on the street. Don’t head back to the ship until you’ve sampled them, as they are simply the most delicious thing to enjoy in St. Petersburg.
When, Where, and How
When To Go
Anytime from May through October is a great time to be in St. Petersburg. One of the best things about the mid-summer time of year in St. Petersburg is the “white nights” that occur. These are when it never really gets completely and totally dark, and it is truly a sight to behold. Essentially, sunset merges with sunrise and creates a mesmerizing effect.
Where You’re Docked
The majority of large cruise ships dock at an enormous commercial port that is located approximately 25 minutes from downtown St. Petersburg. It’s still within a convenient distance, though, and a pleasant gift shop is located right at the port so that those who don’t wish to wander off will still have something to do.
Which Cruise Ships Go Here?
A huge number of the major cruise lines have itineraries that feature stops at St. Petersburg. Some of the main cruise lines that stop in St. Petersburg are Disney, Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean and Cunard. However, there are plenty of other options available in terms of dates, ships, in port and days at sea when it comes to St. Petersburg.